Sand dams reduce human to human and human to wildlife conflict in rural drylands where there is conflict over scarce water sources. An example of this is our work with Lekurruki Conservation Trust in Northern Kenya which began in 2015. With the support of Sand Dams Worldwide and Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF), they are building sand dams and improving access to water and creating sustainable futures for people and wildlife in this vulnerable region.

A community approach

Lekurruki conservancy is a community-owned area of land in Northern Kenya, managed by the Mukogodo Maasai who live there, protecting and improving it for the benefit of people and wildlife alike. It is one of 27 similar conservancies that collectively make up the Northern Rangelands – an area of land 150% the size of Wales.

Peter Matunge, Lekurruki Conservation Trust (LCT) Manager, told us: “Lekurruki conservancy was started in 1999 by the Lekurruki community with the vision that this conservancy would help them achieve some social, economic and ecological sustainability.”

It is home to 3,126 people and their 19,072 livestock, as well as significant populations of wildlife, including vulnerable populations of elephants, which live outside the realm of formally protected reserves.

This harsh, semi-arid environment is characterised by drought, land degradation, insecurity and conflict, all of which have contributed to increased hunger and poverty. Rainfall is low and erratic and people report that droughts are becoming more frequent. The scarcity of water and pasture is causing internal displacement and making access to education and health services more difficult than they already are.

Peter previously said: “Last year we had a drought. This year there’s a possibility of a drought. People are already planning to move to other areas, because already it’s January and there’s no grass; no water.”

A water intervention

With the support of Sand Dams Worldwide and ASDF, Lekurrki conservancy has been building a network of sand dams to transform access to water for people, livestock and wildlife.

Before these sand dams there was no access to clean water in the conservancy. Within the 60,000 acres of land, there were just eight freshwater springs  – all of which are unprotected and contaminated from use by livestock and wildlife. All other water collection was from hand-dug holes in dry riverbeds.

Water scarcity results in poor family and livestock health, forces women and girls to spend a large part of their day collecting water, and results in conflict between people and wildlife, who are all competing for this scarce, essential resource.

Improving access to clean water is helping to overcome these problems and create new opportunities for the people who live there. A key part of the work will involve providing separate access points for people and animals.

Peter told us: “This (having water) might also encourage the community to think other ways… because there is water then can we try farming? So, probably the community can think of that. All these things are enabling the community to have excellent livelihoods that can enable them to stand the challenges of climate; the challenges of frequent droughts.”

The future

Sand Dams Worldwide and LCT have formed a partnership to improve the management of water resources in Lekurruki in a variety of ways, including with sand dams. And, to take advantage of the opportunities that access to water will provide, such as supporting those people who choose to adopt agriculture with climate-smart farming techniques.

Peter said: “In 10 years’ time I would like to see this conservancy able to manage itself, be sustainable… The community able to live a better life: having good schools, health centres, water sources, clean water, and able to conserve wildlife and the environment.”

Please consider making a donation today to enable more pastoralist communities to extend the network of sand dams in the Northern Rangelands, providing their families, neighbours, livestock as well as wildlife in the region with clean water for life.